I participated in extensive discussions with my Assembly colleagues about the subject of congestion pricing over the past week. After this consultation, following my own review of communications from constituents and numerous contacts with transportation agencies and city officials, I was prepared to vote against the congestion pricing bill in the form it was presented to us on Monday.
It is clear that there is a need to provide a reliable and secure funding stream for mass transit, and that there is an urgent need to address severe traffic congestion in New York City. However, it was equally clear that the proposed legislation did not fully address these needs and that there remained too many unanswered questions to approve this bill.
These questions included adequately explaining why New Yorkers were to pay a new congestion fee while New Jersey drivers would pay no extra charge. Or why the same adverse impact congestion pricing has had on business in London would not occur here. Or whether there were realistic expectations about improving congestion on Northern Boulevard, Queens Boulevard or the Long Island Expressway.
In addition to these questions, as discussion proceeded over the past few days in Albany, it seemed plain to me that while the basic plan and its potential benefits for Manhattan were spelled out, the impact on our own Queens neighborhoods were poorly considered on such issues, for example, as the plan for residential permit parking. Also, I saw few transit improvements in store for residents of my district.
Perhaps the biggest flaw in this particular proposal is that it fails to recognize that the subject of traffic congestion and the environmental impact it has is not just a Manhattan problem, but is a regional one. After all the tension and drama of this moment passes, our mass transit system will continue to need funding and clogged traffic and the pollution it generates will still remain. The city and state administrations and legislators need to build upon what we have learned during this debate and cooperate in pursuing a more comprehensive regional approach to ease congestion throughout the city. A way must be found to improve air quality and provide funding to the MTA. Congestion mitigation is a laudable goal, but instituting a tax on middle class workers is not the answer.